Earl Ofari Hutchinson: More Than Historical Stupidity in Ron Paul's Slavery Crack





[Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York).]

No shot GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul tossed out yet another juicy zinger this time on "Meet the Press" when he said that Lincoln was a bad guy for fighting the civil war. Paul's solution: simply shell out some cash, buy the slaves, and set them free. One would like to believe that Paul is just jerking off the press and the public with his shoot from the lip, loose brained, solutions on everything from taxes to ending the Iraq war. And that his dig at Lincoln for fighting the Civil War is the latest in the train of dumb wit Paulisms.

But the Civil War and the Lincoln jibe needs a response for two reasons. The first is for its idiot read of history.

Lincoln as an Illinois Congressman in 1849 proposed a bill for voluntary and gradual emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia. Lincoln toyed with the idea of offering compensation to get the slavemasters to go along with it. Congress dominated by Southerners and the slave owners showed absolutely no interest in taking a government bribe to give up their slaves in D.C. Lincoln didn't give up the idea.

In 1861, Lincoln, now president, dangled the carrot of federal dollars in front of the slaveowners in the Border States. He'd pay them $400 per slave to free them. There were no takers. The next year, Lincoln, even arm twisted Congress to pass a resolution providing for paynment to the slaveowners in the Border States and elsewhere. That went nowhere too.

The slave masters understood something that Paul doesn't. Slavery was not an aberrant, patchwork system that consigned a few million luckless blacks to hard, unpaid labor. Slavery was a cornerstone of the Southern economy. It wove personal lifestyle, custom, and comfort together for the benefit of the slave owners. Slavery was slyly encoded in articles in the Constitution, protected by court decisions, and bolstered by the full force of federal law (the enforement of the fugitive slave law). Lincoln had a better chance of dismantling slavery with dollars than Paul has of winning the White House.

The other more compelling reason to take on Paul's dumb crack is that while the North may have won the war, the South won the peace. No other region has so dominated national politics -- the military, the courts, Congress, the White House -- as the South.

It retooled slavery into a iron clad sytem of Jim Crow segregation, economic domination, and state government sanctioned violence to maintain power. No amount of money could have changed that....


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